Patience, responsibility, unconditional love, a healthy attitude to exercise; the list of virtues that dogs and dog ownership can teach a child goes on… So many special childhood memories have been created with canine companions in tow. Perhaps you’re thinking about giving the gift of a four-pawed furry friend to your kid/s. Obviously fulfilling your own dog-owning dream is just a happy by-product of your giving nature! Getting the right fit for the family as a whole is absolutely fundamental to a happy hound and a happy home. If you’re about to em‘bark’ upon this wonderful journey, the question on your lips is probably ‘which dog breed makes the best family pet?’ And we’re here to help.   

The answer to this question can be very different depending on the specific circumstances and members of the family. Age of children, number of children, disabilities, lifestyle, size of garden, parent’s energy levels (let’s face it, you’re unlikely to be able to/want to escape exercising duties altogether), and family finances are all things to consider when mulling over your choice of mutt. So let’s take a few circumstances and explore which breeds might be a good fit for each.

The baby/toddler stages

Toddlers are strange little beings from a pet’s perspective. They look human, they smell human, but they move in little jerky, excitable movements and don’t always have complete control of their limbs. They fall, they don’t always understand how or why they must be gentle and so these guys need a robust sort of pet. Now, obviously, the grand plan is to teach toddlers to be calm, dog-friendly people; in the meantime, perhaps a larger, more solid breed of dog comes into their own. 

The Labrador retriever is the classic choice and there’s a good reason. They tend to be placid in nature. They’re robust and easy to train. They also soon learn that toddlers are messy eaters and that their life-long ambition of being a canine hoover can finally be realised. Other breeds such as Border terriers (for those requiring a smaller dog), spaniels (for those with the time and energy), and of course any mixed mongrel types in between, could also be a great fit. 

Perhaps older rescues, those with achy bones and who are slower to react might be a less sensible choice. For their sake more than anyone’s.

Quiet children/those who are nervous around dogs

Something to think about in this scenario is whether adopting a more mature, calmer dog could be a good idea. Puppies jump, bounce, lick faces and play bite and that can be intimidating to some. How about a retired greyhound? Soft as butter, gentle giants who don’t even have a huge exercise requirement (compared to the spaniel for example). There are other breeds; the whippet makes another great couch potato, as does the Cavalier King Charles spaniel and the Saint Bernard for example.

Just remember – no matter how safe they seem, NEVER leave a dog alone with a young or inexperienced child or a toddler, for everyone’s sake.

Older children 

Older children will often take more responsibility for caring for the family dog. They might like a breed with strong trainability. Flyball, agility or even just teaching tricks could be a good new hobby that they can really get their teeth into. Spaniels, Labradors, pointers, terriers, anything with intelligence and energy could be a great fit. 

What about rescues?

Don’t forget about these guys. If you’re looking for a particular breed then there is often a specific rescue set up for them who can advise you on whether they would be a suitable pet for your situation. Cross breeds in rescue centres can also be a great option. They have usually been assessed on house training, children, cats etc so you can get a clearer understanding of whether they will make a positive addition to your family. Those with behavioural issues could prove too much of a challenge for busy family life, just something to bear in mind.   

Where finances are tight

Obviously we’d only ever recommend getting any pet if you can truly afford to feed, house, vaccinate, and generally keep one. However, if money is a minor consideration, choosing a small breed could be sensible. Chihuahuas, spaniels and schnauzers eat less, require cheaper flea and worming products, and even smaller (and therefore often cheaper) beds than say your Great Danes, your standard poodles, and even your Labradors.

Whatever your situation, researching your breed is extremely important when choosing a dog. After all they could be with you for 12, 15, even 20 years! A bit of effort now could pay dividends in a happy household for years to come. Exercise requirement, trainability, prey drive/instincts, garden size, finances, child personality and lifestyle should all form part of the decision-making process. Happy hound hunting to you!

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